Saving the flag

Author’s note: Memorial Day is scheduled for May 25 this year. I hope you will take the opportunity to honor our war veterans.

Tag, you’re it.

That’s what the card said to me when it caught my eye as it lay on the ground at the Shell/Sonic/Church’s Chicken station right outside of Katy, Texas.

flag in the trashWhen I picked it up to read it, I saw it was in Spanish and I gave a little “humph” because I can’t read Spanish and I threw it into the trash can.

Right on top of the U.S. flag.

No, that’s not right, I thought to myself when I saw the juxtaposition of our nation’s treasured symbol laying among the empty cups of coffee, the wrappers filled with Sonic burger crumbs, and other gallimaufry of items no longer wanted.

photoI wanted to walk away from it. Wash my hands of it. Not have it inconvenience me and my family on a Saturday afternoon.

Except that’s not what my father, Hollis E. Perry, said in Korea. Or my step-son, Adam L. Leavens,  said in Afghanistan. Or any of the other 1.9 million current members of the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Instead, they said: “Send me. I’ll go. I’ll defend and honor the flag until death if I need to.” Since the American Revolution, nearly 3 million service men and women have been wounded or died serving the United States.

IMG_1754And until 1899, many veterans were treated like the flag I found in the trash. Then, the veterans decided to band together.  “The VFW traces its roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service: Many arrived home wounded or sick. There was no medical care or veterans’ pension for them,and they were left to care for themselves.”

So, my family and I took the wounded and tattered flag from the trash and over to the Katy VFW chapter, not knowing if the group was even open on a Saturday afternoon. But as fate and meaningful coincidence would have it, the chapter was open and volunteer Jim Babin was giving tours of the small  “G.I. Joe” museum established to honor the military veterans who served in wars on foreign soil.

IMG_1761A Vietnam vet, Mr. Babin thanked us several times for bringing the flag to him. “We have a burning ceremony once a month for our flags,” he said.

But we weren’t the ones to be thanked. He was. He gave as a young man in Vietnam and he continues to give today, with no expectation of reward but maybe just a little respect.

We’re grateful we were tagged that day.

God bless America.

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